Valentin Danilov is a Russian physicist, who, at the time of his arrest, was head of the Thermo-Physics Centre at Krasnoyarsk State Technical University. He was arrested in February 2001 on charges of espionage and fraud for allegedly selling “state secrets” to a Chinese company and scientific institute and allegedly embezzling part of the project funds. He was first tried in late 2003 before a jury and was acquitted of all charges brought against him. The prosecution subsequently appealed the verdict, and the Russian Supreme Court ruled that his case should be retried.
In November 2004, following a retrial that failed to meet international fair trial standards, Professor Danilov was found guilty of passing “state secrets” to China and of embezzling funds. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison, to be reduced by 19 months for time already served in pre-trial detention. Professor Danilov appealed his conviction on the basis of procedural violations. On June 29, 2005, the Supreme Court confirmed his conviction, but shortened his prison sentence by one year.
On November 24, 2012, after serving more than nine years in prison, he was released on bail and permitted to join his wife, who lives in Novosibirsk. He had served more than two-thirds of his 13-year prison sentence and thus was eligible to apply for parole in accordance with Russian legislation. Professor Danilov had a heart attack during pretrial detention and suffered from heart ailments and teeth problems throughout his lengthy incarceration. He also filed a complaint about the handling of his case with the European Court of Human Rights, which to date has not been heard.
Valentin Danilov is a physicist born in the city of Krasnoyarsk. He earned an undergraduate degree from the Novosibirsk State University’s School of Physics, an advanced degree from the USSR Academy of Sciences’ Graduate Institute of Nuclear Physics and a Candidate of Science degree in physics and mathematics. Professor Danilov’s research focused on the effect of solar activity on space satellites. At the time of his arrest he was head of the Thermo-Physics Centre at Krasnoyarsk State Technical University in Siberia.
Professor Danilov was arrested on February 16, 2001, on charges of espionage and fraud for allegedly selling classified satellite information to a Chinese company and scientific institute, with which his university had a legal contract. He was also accused of fraud for allegedly embezzling 460,000 rubles (approximately U.S. $15,000) of the money earned for the project. Professor Danilov has consistently maintained that all of the information that he shared with the Chinese company and institute was available in scientific journals and had been declassified for more than 10 years. His colleagues at the university have supported his claim. Professor Danilov has also testified that the 460,000 rubles given to him—as signatory of the legal contract between his university and the Chinese organizations—was used to pay a part of the money owed to the project’s contractors.
Professor Danilov, who suffers from hypertension, spent one and a half years in pre-trial detention under harsh conditions, as a result of which his health deteriorated. He reportedly had a heart attack in prison and was briefly hospitalized. In spring 2002 a regional court ruled that he could be released on bail, but his family was unable to raise the necessary funds—approximately U.S. $4,000. The American Physical Society successfully campaigned to raise the bail money from contributions by several dozen U.S. scientists, and Professor Danilov was released on his own recognizance in September 2002.
Professor Danilov’s trial began on October 2, 2003, and reportedly was the first espionage trial in Russia ever to be decided by a jury. On December 30, 2003, the Krasnoyarsk Territorial Court found Professor Danilov innocent on all seven counts of the treason and fraud charges that had been brought against him, and he was fully exonerated. The prosecution subsequently appealed the verdict on procedural grounds, alleging that the defense lawyers had pressured the jury. In June 2004, Russia’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the prosecution. It overturned Professor Danilov’s acquittal and ordered a retrial. The court’s decision, a seven-page document reportedly produced by the judges after only 15 minutes of deliberation, was widely criticized in Russia and abroad—including by Russian Nobel Laureate in Physics Vitaly Ginzburg and 17 other members of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who appealed to the prosecution to drop the charges against Professor Danilov.
Professor Danilov’s second trial, again before the Krasnoyarsk Territorial Court but with a new judge and jury, began on September 14, 2004, and was closed. Although the charges brought against him rested largely on the question of whether or not the information he gave to the Chinese organizations was classified and thus ”secret,” the jury was forbidden to examine this issue. It was permitted only to determine whether Professor Danilov had transferred information—something that he did openly, under the guidelines of a legal contract, and has never denied. On November 10, at the request of the prosecutor’s office, Professor Danilov was placed in custody in the courtroom. On November 17 the jury found him guilty of espionage for allegedly selling aerospace technology to China.
On Thursday, November 25, 2004, Judge Andrei Afanasyev of the Krasnoyarsk Territorial Court ruled that the information Professor Danilov had passed to China included “state secrets” and sentenced him to 14 years in a maximum security prison, to be shortened by 19 months for time already served in pre-trial detention. The judge also ruled that Dr. Danilov had defrauded Krasnoyarsk State Technical State University of 460,000 rubles and ordered him to pay the money back to the University.
On November 25, 2004, a group of well-known scientists and scholars who are specialists in the area of scientific research in which Professor Danilov was working convened a seminar to discuss with officers of the Russian Security Services (FSB) their concerns about the arguments used by the prosecution and its alleged scientific “experts” which ultimately formed the basis for Dr. Danilov’s conviction and lengthy prison sentence. The scientists—including Nobel Laureate Vitaly Ginzburg and several other members of the Russian Academy of Sciences—evaluated the arguments of the prosecution and the expert witnesses and noted their grave concern that the so-called scientific experts who evaluated the Terms of Reference document that Professor Danilov gave to his Chinese clients and claimed it contained classified information did not have any background in the relevant area of research. In fact, according to the scientists, one of the “experts” who was permitted by the judge to testify and who claimed that the document being examined contained information that constituted state secrets held only a degree in physical education.
Professor Danilov appealed his conviction in Russian courts on the basis of procedural violations, including that several jurors had access to classified information and that the court had not taken into account a number of written testimonies that demonstrated he had not divulged state secrets. On June 29, 2005, Russia’s Supreme Court confirmed Professor Danilov’s conviction, but shortened his prison term by one year. According to press accounts, he and his lawyers reportedly have asked that a Supreme Court commission investigate whether or not the three judge panel gave his appeal due consideration. They also filed a complaint about the handling of his case with the European Court of Human Rights, which has not to date heard the case..
From November 10, 2004, until August 11, 2005, Professor Danilov was held in a Krasnoyarsk detention center. On August 11, 2005, he reportedly was moved to the maximum security prison ITK-17 near Krasnoyarsk. In early September 2005 he reportedly was transferred again, this time to a prison in Uyarsky District in Krasnodar Territory. Throughout his imprisonment, he suffered from heart ailments that began while he was initially detained in 2001, as well as unspecified problems with his teeth.
On November 24, 2012, Professor Danilov was released from prison on parole and permitted to join his wife in Novosibirsk. He had served more than two-thirds of his 13-year prison sentence and thus was eligible to apply for parole in accordance with Russian legislation.